"Prostitution is definitely not what it used to be and somebody has to do something about this." That statement was not made by MK Orit Zuaretz of Kadima, who recently burst into the limelight with a welcome bill meting out jail time to prostitutes' customers. The legislation passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.
This quote actually comes from a veteran Berlin hooker who would spend every day - in rain or snow, or summer heat - standing at the corner of Kurfurstendamm and Uhlandstrasse. I would greet her every time I passed by. She looked scornfully at a luxury car that stopped in front of her, as the man inside asked her price in a thick Russian accent.
"I don't do Russians," she stated. "Uncouth people. They don't tip."
This woman, who never took a university gender studies course, hit the bull's eye better than a thousand experts: The biggest problem of the 21st century, and not only when it comes to sex services, is uncouthness.
And of all the kinds of uncouthness, the deadliest is the one based on the capitalist principle of "I deserve it" - that is, I, the customer, deserve the maximum for my money. And this principle rests on an even deeper foundation: the belief that the "sucker" - the person who lets himself be taken advantage of - is practically subhuman.
That is, in an uncouth society that operates based on the philosophy of "I am not a sucker and no one is going to take advantage of me," there is no place for crudely sucker-ish phenomena like, say, prostitution. For what we have here is a precious commodity (a woman's body ), and women have been talking themselves hoarse in order to explain just how precious it is and how the rights to it lie with no one but the owner of said body.
And now, in an inexplicable rejection of this ideology, women at the margins of society are wrestling down the price of this commodity. This must not be passed over in silence. The big paradox here is that on every high hill and under every green tree, people are preaching that a woman has the right to choose what to do with herself and her body, except in cases where the papacies that bestowed this right in the first place want it back.
One of these cases is that of prostitutes, dimwits who "don't know what they are doing," and need to understand they shouldn't be suckers. "They know not what they do" has always been the way religions disseminate their beliefs by force among the benighted.
So now, out of what appear to be entirely pure intentions - eliminating the ugly phenomenon of prostitution - we see all the ugliness and uncouthness at the base of the humane initiative to punish prostitutes' clients: the same uncouthness that has always characterized people who know what's good for us. This is the same ugliness that characterizes those who believe human desires can be regimented with various laws and that the thousand human nuances that make up the interaction between a prostitute and her client can be sacrificed for one ideology or another (in our case: a woman's right to her body ). This interaction is indecent. The Council of Wise Women has decided.
It is also clear why, as noted, the values that determine what is uncouth in our times state that it is a crime against humanity to let someone even dare to think: "It's true, women have the right to humane treatment and full equality, but the only thing that turns me on is doing it in a filthy backyard with a woman who has slept with 500 other men."
Thus, local men with these perverse fantasies may well be sent to prison for a year, where they will have plenty of time to ponder their sin. Or perhaps the state will establish educational workshops to get the perversion out of these perverts' heads. They will be told that they'd be better off finding a respectable woman who is not a sucker, and who will satisfy their sexual needs in accordance with an orderly bill of sale called a relationship or marriage.
Prostitutes, who will be left unemployed, will then also realize they should find "real jobs." Thus they will join the large group of simple whores: those human beings who sell their souls in the crudest way for the sake of a career, money, fame and much more, but outwardly look like respectable creatures and call themselves journalists, gender studies professors, Knesset members and heaven knows what else. Hiring their services, for some reason, is not illegal.
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